When you stand up to speak, please be reminded that no one wants you to blunder, disappoint or be terribly boring – seriously. Even though that silly voice in your head may be thinking otherwise and the damn butterflies in your stomach may be flying out of formation… but the truth is that no one goes to the cinema hoping to watch a bad movie.
The majority of us are really hoping that you succeed, so let’s not disappoint okay?
Our company, Jean-Paul & Associates Consultancy, has been conducting tailored in-house group training sessions, promotional exam crash courses, team-building workshops and annual retreats for large and mid-sized corporate organizations for over 7 years and counting. Sometimes we go a step further to organize open programs for start-ups and organize entrepreneur bootcamps or networking events for folks still struggling with setting up their business. It’s been an interesting journey.
Along the way I’ve had to hire professional speakers and co-facilitators, university dons and other established entrepreneurs to speak to our participants during some of mind-blowing sessions. Over time I’ve learned why some speakers are more engaging than others. I’ve also deciphered what makes one coach with even fewer academic qualifications a brilliant communicator but the next speaker, an over-qualified university don makes everyone in the room feel like their water was spiked with an overdose of Valium.
In the last 3 years alone, while I’ve spoken to thousands of people from all walks on life in conventions, graduations, board rooms, ball rooms, churches, classrooms, retreats, seminars, workshops and even under a canopy, I’ve seen the good, bad and inexperienced walk up to the podium in an attempt to speak. Basically everyone now is a speaker. But I still believe that good books and speaking events are very important, because that’s how we share new ideas, insights and stories. There is great power in the tongue and when you give a man with a burning message a microphone, the listener’s heart can get inflamed with desire or a magnificent obsession. For the one who is ready to hear the message, a new idea can be sown in their minds.
So please next time you are invited to speak, it is important to note that there are 3 keys to knowledge transfer which must be adequately covered in order to effectively transfer the know-how and rationale behind it.
I call them: What? Why? How?
An effective presentation must cover the 3 questions on everyone’s mind. So let’s get down to it, shall we?
What: So what’s new? What is so special about what you have to say? What’s the angle you take on strategy? What will knowing and applying this information do for the climb on my career ladder or business balance sheet? What are the objectives? What will be the ultimate learning outcome?
Questions like these are on everyone’s mind on the first day while attending any training program even as they make up their mind to sign the attendance register and excuse themselves. As an effective speaker, you will be wise to quickly give a broad overview of the course in order to pique the interest of your participants. Laying down the framework and doing the groundwork is usually the more theoretical aspect of the program. So to make it a whole lot more interesting, you should dispense with the definitions and theory as quickly as possible and convert it into a story and make use of metaphors. Humans learn through stories and the metaphors you use paint a symbolic picture on the minds of participants long after they might have forgotten your last name.
Why: This deals with Purpose. Does it matter? Why should I care? Why should I even be listening to you when I have unfinished games on my smartphone and iPad? Have you even done this before or are you telling us something you researched on Google last night? If (yes) what were the results?
Understanding the WHY and bringing it to the forefront immediately strikes at the heart of every listener. This is them a chance to establish your credibility as a speaker and also tug at their emotions simultaneously. As you know emotions eat logic for breakfast every time. So please, when next you are invited to speak, remind us again why we should care. Of course this also implies that you must look the part, speak the part and have walked down that path using your personal experience (it baffles me how a 23 year old fresh graduate can call himself a “leadership expert”). Anyways…
How: Okay so now you’ve got us hooked. You’ve told us about what you want to tell us. You’ve given several compelling reasons why we should also listen to you over the next couple hours or even days. Now please tell us how we should go about applying this knowledge in the most simplistic way possible. Give us a simple road-map and a compass. Give us a user manual.
Don’t speak over our heads or belabour us with verbose MBA vocabulary and big big grammer that only gurus like Steven Covey, Tom Peters and Michael Porter would understand. Simply tell us how we can start applying the principles, tools and techniques like A-B-C-D.
That way we would no longer need you to hold our hands and walk us through the process after we’ve collected our training certificate. We should be in a better position not only to apply the lessons but also to teach others. When this happens, then you my wise friend would have truly succeeded in imparting knowlege.
Ever noticed how many pastors, priests and preachers can effectively teach the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark, John and also letters of St. Paul? The lessons and parables used by Jesus and metaphors and writings of St. Paul effectively covers the What, Why and How.
Every effective speaker I have ever hired must teach using Principles, Questions, Research and Stories weaved together masterfully to create a fabric of learning experience that their participants walk away feeling a lot more informed and empowered than they were when they came in for the ice-breakers.
While we both know that you weren’t hired to come in and thrill or get them excited (unless you’re a motivational speaker) but you are here to enlighten and empower. But there’s no need to be sombre and act all serious. Don’t forget while you’re speaking, your participants will subconsciously be comparing your presentation with that of Anthony Robbins, Fela Durotoye, Les Brown, Uti Nwachukwu, Richard Quest, Ebuka Anichebe, Leke Alder, Steve Harris and even Oprah, so don’t forget to bring some of your dazzling personality, ingenuity and humour.
I hope you strive to improve on your last performance and bring this business of enlightenment and education to dazzling new heights much like the entertainment industry has managed to wrap everyone around its little fingers. Don’t be afraid to do something remarkably different. Go the extra mile and surprise us!
Go on Make Your Life a Blockbuster!
Ebuka J. Anichebe.